What Is Ad Retargeting and How Does It Work?


If you’re like most small brands, you’re always focused on expanding your customer base. Gaining new customers tends to be a key focus—but reaching them is harder than it sounds. Research suggests that your chances of selling to an existing customer sit at around 60-70%, whereas selling to a new one hovers at between 5-20%.

Fortunately, there’s something you can do to improve your chances: ad retargeting.

This simple strategy can not only help you not only retain current customers, but also convert more leads and website visitors. Not sure how to approach this strategy, or how to get started? Here’s what you should know.

What Is Retargeting?

Where traditional campaigns involve showing ads to people who haven’t heard of a brand or product, retargeting takes a different approach. Also called “remarketing,” retargeting is a type of advertising that re-engages online leads who haven’t yet converted.

Even if you’re just learning the definition of ad retargeting, the chances are good that you’ve experienced it before. Here are some examples of common campaigns:

  • A customer who looks who leaves a website without making a purchase later sees ads for the product they viewed
  • A customer who puts an item in their cart without making a purchase gets a reminder email about their waiting purchase
  • A past customer sees new ad campaigns with the latest product line

Though customers might think that the new ads are coincidental, they’re actually the result of hard work from marketers!

What Are the Benefits of a Retargeting Campaign?

There are a few key reasons for launching a retargeting campaign.

Based on the examples above, the first one should be obvious: a successful campaign will help you boost your website conversions fast. Research shows that the majority of people who check out your website for the first time will leave without coming back. With retargeting campaigns, you can remind them of your products and solutions long after they’ve closed the tab, prompting them to complete the buyer’s journey.

In addition, retargeting campaigns are a key way to increase your brand awareness. According to the marketing “Rule of Seven,” most prospects need to see messaging from a brand at least seven times before making a purchase. If you’re hoping to build trust with your audience, retargeting is the way to go.

Beyond this, retargeting can be a great way to help you with other business goals, such as reducing cart abandonment or increasing your customer lifetime value.

How Does Ad Retargeting Work?

Depending on your brand and your preferences, there are a few options available when it comes to retargeting strategies.

Cookie-based Retargeting

The most common retargeting method is based on cookies. Anytime someone visits your website, their browser accepts a cookie, which is a small piece of JavaScript that stores information.

Even after they’ve closed your website tab, that cookie contains details about the pages on your site that they visited. With this information, retargeting platforms can present the user with ads specific to those pages and products.

Because these ads are based on past behavior and site visits, they’re more relevant to users than traditional banner ads. This makes them a powerful tool to use in conjunction with your regular marketing efforts!

Email-based Retargeting

If you have access to your customers’ emails—from a list of website subscribers who have not yet made a purchase, for example—you can use this for retargeting as well.

Most social media platforms offer paid retargeting campaigns that use these email lists. By identifying platform users whose login information includes an email on your list, these social media sites can serve retargeting ads to the correct users.

Content Syndication Retargeting

Content syndication is the process of publishing your original content on third-party platforms. The goal is to maximize your content reach by sharing it with a wide range of users via a snippet, thumbnail, or the complete article. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, check out this complete guide for more information.

In addition to furthering your reach, content syndication is a good opportunity for remarketing. Many content syndication sites will advertise your content as well, allowing you to target specific personas as you go.

Who Should You Retarget?

The answer to this question is up to you! Retargeting strategies can be great for a range of leads and customers.

Warm Leads

If you have leads who read your content or engage with your site, the best strategy is to give them new opportunities to do the same. Retargeting them with ads for blogs, free tools, and videos can feel helpful without becoming intrusive. If possible, direct them to a page that will prompt them to offer their email before they can access your content.

Hot Leads

For leads who are further along in the buyers’ journey, try serving ads for your best products and services or emailing them about their abandoned carts. These ads should always vary according to their site behavior.

Existing Customers

As mentioned above, prompting existing customers to return is a great way to get new products and services in front of your past customers. Showcasing things like current discounts, product launches, and seasonal sales can be a safe bet.

Retarget Website Visitors With Ease

If you’re hoping to keep your leads warm, ad retargeting is the best way to go. With a few simple steps, you can create campaigns that automate your ad strategy, serving them to the prospects, leads, and customers who are most likely to convert. Whether you’re hoping to share new sales, spread your content, or simply beat the competition, the right campaign can help!

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